When I was growing up, teachers, neighbors, and family members frequently remarked on my helpful and caring nature. It wasn't until I reached young adulthood that I realized these qualities were steppingstones toward my community health career at a nonprofit health care system. It was a natural calling that I couldn't ignore. During my nearly two decades in this field, I became familiar with community health issues, social barriers, and the programs and resources designed to help people. This work taught me how to implement programs aligned with needs, evaluate outcomes, and report on their impact. While some saw this job as "work," I saw it as an extension of myself, combining my empathy and patient advocacy with a strategic mission. Exposure to these different environments and learning opportunities continued to shape my values and beliefs.
When I received my cystic fibrosis diagnosis eight years ago, it seemed like my life had veered off course. While trying to compartmentalize aspects of my personal and professional life, it felt like I was losing grasp of my purpose, which led to grief and denial. However, when I started volunteering, I learned firsthand about others' experiences living with CF and recognized that I was not alone.
I embraced volunteer activities within the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and I was naturally drawn to opportunities that aligned with my values and professional skills. The more I got involved, the more I was compelled to make a more significant impact beyond volunteering. The fusion of my personal experience with CF and my professional background only fueled my vision to do more.
So I established Halite Solutions Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the health and social needs of individuals with CF, emphasizing the collaborative power of partnerships to create comprehensive resources and services tailored to these needs.
I continued to volunteer, and last summer, I participated in a pilot small group discussion on "Living Longer with CF" hosted by the CF Foundation alongside other passionate volunteers. After the session ended, participants expressed interest in continuing to meet. Many participants exchanged contact information, and I convened ongoing virtual meetings. The Aging With CF Workgroup quickly took shape, a program framework was developed, and two dedicated leaders emerged.
This past January, CF Senior Saturday (CFSS) Meet and Greet — an evolution of the Aging With CF Workgroup — was launched as the first CF community program of Halite Solutions Group. Together with the program's advisors, we quickly recognized that more than volunteer time was needed. So, with the help of Karen Currie and Denise Thayne, the CFSS Meet and Greet program applied for and received an Impact Grant.
The creation of the CFSS Meet and Greet program serves as a testament to the transformative influence of peer engagement. Facilitating connections, communication, and collaboration reveals the blueprint for meaningful change. My journey from a career in community health to receiving a CF diagnosis, to engaging in volunteer work and eventually founding a nonprofit organization illustrates just how powerful it is to find purpose in a CF diagnosis. Volunteer opportunities are within reach for all. The decision to take that first step lies within you. Connect and discover where your path may lead!
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